Way, way back in time when I was just a little kid, I was terrified of fire trucks. It wasn’t just the natural fear of something humongously bigger than I was, it was absolute terror. Finally my parents listened to me and found out why.
I was convinced that because they were red, fire trucks were on fire, and when they went by your house they threw fire on it. I don’t remember for sure, but I suspect my big brother had something to do with this misconception.
My parents’ solution was quick and effective. They took me to the Greenville Fire Department to visit my dad’s big brother, my Uncle Ernie, who was the Greenville Fire Chief way back then.
I refused to get near the truck, but Unk pointed out the trucks weren’t even warm, let alone on fire. I refused his offer to sit in one, but accepted the soda he produced from an old chest-type cooler. They also had a penny peanut machine which was pretty cool in my book.
Best of all was the fire mascot, Smoky, a huge brown dog who was the friend of almost every kid in town.
One day we were at the station when an alarm sounded. Smoky ran into the firemen’s kitchen, and my uncle yelled at us to follow Smoky and stay with him until the fire trucks were gone. No argument from me. I not only followed Smoky, but I held onto him for dear life.
Apparently this cured any lingering doubts I had about fire trucks causing fires.
Last Sunday I found myself in the Greenville Fire Department again. Now Steve Birt is the chief, and the occasion was their open house celebration and education in honor of Fire Prevention month.
Two of the younger grandchildren went along. They looked up at the fire trucks with the same awe I still feel. The tour was great.
We saw all the equipment, and the firemen answered all of our questions. We took a quick class to teach us how to use fire extinguishers. Then we went outside to actually use a fire extinguisher to douse a controlled fire. I stepped back and let a teenager do the honors on that one. Fire is still not my friend.
Then the little ones got the chance to use the fire hose. Three-year-old Jeff declined at first. He just wanted to sit in a fire truck and “drive.” But five-year-old Scott donned the fire coat and helmet eagerly. It took a minute to find his arms in the coat and get them out to where he could use them.
The fireman in charge helped Scott aim the little hose at the “house on fire.” Then they moved to the big hose. When the fireman let go, the hose pressure lifted Scott backwards. The fireman quickly caught him. Scott’s eyes sparkled.
After watching Scott, Jeff decided he wanted to run the hose. It took several minutes to find Jeff in the fire coat, let alone his hands and arms. He decided that the little hose was thrill enough for him.
We went back into the building for refreshments and found still more things to do. Both boys got the chance to hear the smoke detector, roll out of bed, crawl to the door, test it for heat, run to safety, and even call 911 and respond to instructions from the dispatcher. They were impressed and so was I.
Before we left we got to fill bags with helpful goodies to take home with us. A great tour for kids I thought. Then I heard a senior citizen say, “I came here to learn how to use a fire extinguisher,” and I realized it’s a great tour for anyone. If you missed it this year, plan to catch it when they do it again next year.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Oct. 11, 2000.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.